Saturday, September 08, 2018

What's the hurry?

So, after my sister up and died the year before, my mother decided she was going to defy our expectations of living at least as long as her parents (mid-90s) and without much warning, died of a heart attack in April, 2017. She was 82.

82! That's like--average death age. She was supposed to last longer!

She had been sick with a cold in the days before, she went to the doctor, who thought nothing of it, and I'd strangle that doctor now if I could. What she probably had was congestive heart failure, if you ask me, but I'm no doctor. Still.

Shannon, Marty and I were with her the night before, she wasn't feeling well. We had no idea. We tried to convince her to go the the hospital; she wouldn't budge. Finally, we put her to bed, and she said to us that she felt loved. Those were her last words to us.

Shannon checked on her in the morning, she was sleeping. I showed up to visit an hour and a half later, and she was gone.

One hour and a half hour. That's it. That's all it took.

She wouldn't have liked being hooked up to all the tubes and wires and electronics that folks are subject to in the hospital when they die. She died in her sleep. So it was a good death, we keep telling ourselves.

She was cremated, and sits beside my dad in the basement. We had a great service for her--beer and wine and snacks--we wanted to make it a party. I think she would have approved.

Since then, I've taken my parents to Aruba and to San Francisco and scattered some of their ashes into the water. Just so they know I get around. 

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Five years

Well, here it is, September 2, 2018. Whaddya know?

Oh, I know: a lot of goddamn fucking shit has happened since I last posted.

First: My sister died August 7, 2015. Her days were numbered, of course, because she was an alcoholic. She was 63. Had some kind of seizure after having been hospitalized for the umpteenth time for some alcohol-fueled fall or complication or somesuch. She went home and seized up the next day. So her bf calls me and says "Yeah, I think this is the big one!" After many other "big ones" who's to say?

But just in case, I hopped in the car and rushed to the hospital, stopping at the wrong one along the way. I was in a race with her daughter to get there, and I arrived first, which made me feel like I'd won something. The privilege to see her dead body first, I suppose. I'd known her longer than her daughter so I thought I deserved to see her dead first. She didn't look too bad, considering, just like she was sleeping after a 30-odd year bender that included multiple trips to hospitals, rehabs, some respites taken on people's couches, living in her car, or in sleazy motels on the Black Horse Pike.  Took a photo. I won't share it here. I don't want to judge, but I'd say her life was a misery.

Her service was nice though; some of her oldest friends who she hadn't talked to in years showed up. I asked them if they ever hung out together (some still lived in Wenonah) and they said no. So I said you better get on that, you've known each other for more than 50 years! You're getting old! Life is short! And sure enough, several weeks later, someone in the group posted a photo of them out having cocktails or dinner or something. Good on them. Sometimes I give good advice.

My sister was cremated and she's in Shannon's basement now, I think. She was an organ donor--inasmuch as her organs could be useful to anyone, but whaddya know: they used her corneas and her skin. The recipient of her corneas sent Shannon a nice note saying he was able to see...I think Yosemite? Some national park for the first time. Her eyes were not very good, so that surprised me. And her skin helped a breast cancer survivor.

I guess even a life of misery still has gifts to give. RIP, Laur.

But that's not the only shitty thing that has happened in the last few years, which I will attempt to detail with some regularity and humor in the coming days.

Friday, June 14, 2013

that moment

When can you say the moment your life ended and a new, different, somewhat worse one began?

Sure, life has its ups and downs, challenges and hardships. But there are moments when it just stops being what it was and becomes harder. More complicated. And you can't see back to the one you had, you'll never get that one back again. You'll wonder why you ever complained about it. Because the new one, see, the new look at what's ahead, and you see lots of anger. Sadness. Fear. Heartache so crushing it's hard to breathe.

For me, that moment was in a recent 3 am phone call about my youngest son. No, he is not dead or injured. But since that moment, my life has been toppled and tossed like a sightless gerbil in an exercise ball, banging into furniture, crashing into walls.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Bebop farewell

My dad died on April 5 of this year. We knew it was coming--he had Alzheimer's, and toward the end he seemed to decline pretty quickly. His small family (my mother, my sister and her...roommate--for lack of a better word--her daughter, and my two boys) gathered in a small room at the funeral home. A few rows of chairs were set up but weren't needed. I was impressed to see tissue boxes built into the walls. 

There was no service, no family friends...just a rather hurried goodbye before he was sent to be cremated.

My family tends to look for the dark humor in tragedy, so instead of excessive weeping, we told jokes and stories. Dad was lying on a table, covered by a white sheet. Only his head was visible; he looked a little waxy, but really not bad at all. I was afraid this image of his head would continue to haunt me and follow me around like a floating bowl of Cream of Wheat, but so far that hasn't happened. 

He still had great hair for a man his age, 81. We're still amazed he lasted that long, given the abuse he put his body through with drinking. We figured it acted as a preservative.

We sat for several minutes telling old stories--the same ones we always told--and alternately going up to him to say goodbye, then sitting down, then going up to say goodbye again. It couldn't have been much more than 20 minutes, and my mother had had enough. She was ready to go. She didn't want to see him up close.

Twenty minutes to try to squeeze in a lifetime of goodbyes, of "I love you"s not spoken in life.

It wasn't easy, but we got through it. We went out to lunch afterward, and threw rolled up balls of straw paper at each other. 

It's not a bad coping mechanism.

I'm writing this today, Father's Day, because more than two months have passed since his death, and I finally summoned up the courage to place his obit in the newspaper. It seemed like the right time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

get away from me with that thing

I had a shocking realization tonight as I was watching the Ed Show and alternately yelling at the clips of last night's Republican circle jerk.

It was during a Cialis commercial. A silly concept, for sure: the women in the commercial are doing some girly thing or another: one woman twirls her hair, one is caught off guard singing, another is doing that wavy swimming hand thing out the window. Their men are so enchanted by these little displays of whimsy we're led to believe they develop enormous, throbbing erections as a result. Erections that of course demand immediate attention.

But then I looked a little closer at the folks in the commercial, and it hit me:

They're my age. Maybe younger!

These guys look like all the guys I went to high school with. Except mostly better looking. They look old! I mean, these aren't old 68-year-old naked Gingriches getting hard-ons. (Ugh, I can't unsee that! Make it stop!) These are middle age guys with little paunches and wrinkles and grey hair--if they still have hair--and grown children. They still have some potential. And they all have erectile dysfunction.

This made me sad. I'm of an age when women go bonkers with angry hormone fluctuations and gushing, clotty, surprise periods and men are alternately trying to get away from them or waving erections in their faces. Seems like the last thing anyone of this age would want to do is have sex.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

republicans make me nuts

I've watched just about every Republican debate because....well, I don't know. It's torture. I'm trying to keep the boys informed about the dangerous, 13th century views--in my opinion--that the candidates spew. You can almost see the spittle flying out of their mouths when they deflect the topic back to some or another of Obama's shortcomings/abject failures/lack of leadership, blahblahblah. They can't see the world clearly, they're so full of anti-O rage.

They don't have O-faces. They have anti-O faces.

And the problem for me is, that pisses me off. So I end up yelling at the TV during the debates. A lot.

I argue with Romney, debating every false, misguided point he makes, my comments peppered liberally with comments like "shut up you fucking DOUCHE" and "OmiGOD, you're SUCH a fucking DOUCHE, you DOUCHE!" He usually is the recipient of my douche comments.

I reserve "dick" mostly for Newt in my arguments with him. He's a sanctimonious, pompous dick. The term "dick" just seems to fit his milky, bloated visage.

Santorum is tricky. His names vary; I can't quite pin just one on him. He could be "fuckwad" or "dickweed" or "fucking asshole" or "uptight prick". Sometimes he's just a big jerk. His evangelical, dorky personality almost makes me go easy on him. Probably because I don't believe he'll get the nomination. Possibly because I'm still in shock that he has gotten this far in the process, and HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN???

And Paul? He's just entertaining. I go pretty easy on him too, with "moron" and "imbecile". Or "isn't he CUTE?"

I believe watching these things and yelling at the TV is probably hazardous to my health, and my boys think I'm nuts besides. But this process, and my mental and emotional investment in it, is far from over. Go, Team O!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Hello. Let's switch gears here for a moment.

Last week, I got a call from my mother, one I had been expecting for a little while.

"It's time to move your dad," she said.

Of course, she was talking about moving him to what I've taken to calling "the big house," now known as "lockdown." Another name for an Alzheimer's facility.

Back in the late summer, my niece and I helped move my mom and dad from their home in Virginia to an assisted living community in Lewes, Delaware. It's the kind of place plunked down by aliens in the lonely middle of a cornfield, with little homes in various shades of neutral, an apartment building, medical care facility and the main office/dining room/pool/bingo hall/ballroom. In the winter, hundreds and hundreds of snow geese congregate in the field across the road, sending up a flowing white curtain when one bird decides it wants to split.

They got a little house there, and at the time, my dad was ok. In that, yes, he was off his rocker--you can't understand a word he says because it's mostly gibberish--but he was still shuffling, and still smoking cigarettes. I never thought I'd consider smoking cigarettes a sign that his health was basically ok.

He's not smoking anymore.

He had wandered in the night, my mother told me, before the move. He sometimes fell during his travels, somehow managing to escape serious injury. Once in the new house, he continued to wander while my mother dozed (she never got a real good night's sleep knowing he was shuffling around in the dark), sometimes drinking maple syrup and once eating an entire jar of raspberry jam while hiding mugs and cups and trash can lids all over the house.

About a week before the move to lockdown, he had fallen in the garage at night. My mother found him on the other side of the car, half dressed, asleep on the cold floor. It appeared to her that he had gotten into the vinegar.

She couldn't lift him from the floor, because he is dead weight and largely uncooperative, and she made the last of a growing series of calls to the staff to help her.

A few days later, my mom moved him into a room with a gentleman named Ben. We hear Ben is a nice guy.

My niece and I drove down to Lewes that day. We wheeled Dad into the lockdown and to his room. While we stood there talking to the nurses, he used his feet to scoot the wheelchair out the door and down the hall. My first instinct was to go get him, but I remembered. He's in lockdown. He's not going anywhere.

I did catch up to him as he tried to get up from his wheelchair. He had some trouble, and I eased him back into the seat. I spoke to him gently and stroked his back, and told him I was glad he was exploring his new digs.

He looked at me, and for a brief moment, a wave of clarity seemed to wash over his face. His eyes were scared as he looked at me, looking for answers. He looked like he would cry. It seemed like he tried to speak, but couldn't. I wondered how much he knows.

I wonder if he sees his future.

That look is going to stay with me for a long while.